One doesn’t have to be a world traveler to experience wonderful sites nearby. Caldwell County offers many opportunities for recreation, arts, and fun ways to spend time in the surrounding area.  Below are the top 10 best hidden gems that every resident, newcomer and visitor should visit in Caldwell County. (These are in no particular order.)

1. Tucker’s Sculpture Streetscape Gallery
801 West Avenue
Lenoir, NC 28645
Phone: (828) 759-0075
Email: tuckersgallery@yahoo.com
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Hours:
Since Tucker’s is located outdoors, it’s open 24-hours, 7-days a week.

Downtown Lenoir is more like “a town inside a gallery” with an outdoor gallery that adorns the downtown streetscape in an ever-changing outdoor gallery known as Tucker’s Sculpture Streetscape Gallery (named for the first settlement in Lenoir: Tucker’s Barn). Art is usually found inside buildings or art galleries, but Tucker’s Streetscape Sculpture Gallery displays pieces in planters along Main Street and West Avenue in Lenoir. The downtown gallery displays sculptures for a period of six months, after which they are replaced with new pieces. The artwork is available for sale, with new pieces being installed as sculptures are sold. Even if pieces aren’t sold, they are replaced around every six months.

 

2. Sculpted by Nature

Rugged and beautiful, outdoor warriors looking for the ultimate transformational experience will find Wilson Creek appealing. Wilson Creek, a 23.3-mile mountain stream, starts atop the 5,920-foot high Grandfather Mountain, just 100 yards above the Blue Ridge Parkway. Twenty miles later, the headwaters rush through the Blue Ridge Mountains into a 200-foot deep gorge of granite bedrock. Wilson Creek was added to the National Wild and Scenic River System in 2000, and much of it lies in the Pisgah National Forest. Camping, kayaking, hunting and fishing, waterfall hikes, off-road driving, and mountain biking are available in selected areas. Harper Creek Falls is a popular hike in this rugged area, and you get double waterfalls starting at 40 feet. This walk is a moderate hike and takes about an hour. The trailhead is about 1.9 miles north of the Wilson Creek Visitor Center on Brown Mountain Beach Road.

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3. Fort Defiance
1792 Fort Defiance Drive (NC 268)
PO Box 686
Lenoir, NC 28645
Phone: (828) 758-1671
www.fortdefiancenc.org
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Hours:
April – October:
Thursday - Saturday: 10am – 5pm
Sunday: 1pm – 5pm

November – March:
weekends only or by appointment - call for hours

Just a short drive from the Lenoir is Fort Defiance, the restored 1792 home of Revolutionary War hero and statesman William Lenoir, the namesake of Lenoir, North Carolina. The home features more than 300 pieces of original furnishings and artifacts and is considered one of the country's most unique restorations. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the property also has a family cemetery with graves dating back to 1785.
 

 

4. 20 Miles of Furniture

Within the furniture state of North Carolina, there lies a stretch of highway that is dominated by discount furniture, the 20 Miles of Furniture. Thousands of people visit U.S. Highway 321 to seek out over 50 discount furniture outlets stretched over a 20-mile area. Nearly all major manufacturers including Bernhardt, Broyhill, Fairfield Chair, Hammary, Kincaid, and Thomasville can be found along with lesser known companies that also produce top-quality furnishings. Especially keen shoppers can sometimes find one-of-a-kind items or deeply discounted samples. A furniture hotline is available to aid shoppers in their quest for finding furniture. For more information, call 1-800-726-0323 or visit www.20milesoffurniture.com.

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5. A Toe-Tapping Good Time

Looking for unique food, fun and toe-tapping entertainment? If so, look no further than Sim’s Country Bar-B-Que, a cozy little place just off-the-beaten path in southern Caldwell County. Equipped with picnic tables and benches, diners will feel right at home, where you’ll be treated with a smile. Open every Friday and Saturday evening, Sims offers live bluegrass music and a large dance area to whirl around the floor with that special someone or a complete stranger, and even Doc Watson is known to be a frequent unannounced performer. Square dance lessons for all ages will cap of the night. Of course Sim’s is known for its barbecue, but its true claim to fame is being home of one of the best clogging teams in North Carolina. The Sims Country Cloggers are a talented group of young people heralded around the state for being one of the top teams every year.

6160 Petra Mill Road
Granite Falls, NC 28630
Phone: (828) 396-5811
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Hours:
Friday - Saturday: 5pm - 9pm
 

 

6. Vintage Vending
24 South Main Street #2
Granite Falls, NC 28630
Phone: (828) 962-9783
www.antiquevending.com
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Hours:
Open by appointment only

Granite Falls native Allan Huffman has a life-long passion for vintage machines that began in his early childhood. For only a quarter, Huffman could choose from one of 12 flavors from a gravity-fed soda machine. Over the years, Huffman has acquired over 1,000 machines in what is one of the world’s most complete soda machine collections. Huffman started collecting machines through his business, Antique Vending Company. Allan now displays his collection in a renovated textile mill in downtown Granite Falls complete with a banquet facility named Club Cola. For more information, call 828-962-9783.
 

 

7. Countryside Drive: NC 268 & Historic Happy Valley

From Patterson to the Wilkesboro Reservoir, this rural route follows NC 268 along the upper Yadkin River from the mountains to the gently rolling foothills of the piedmont.  Historically a farming region, today the traveler will see acres of horticultural nurseries and turf farms alongside more traditional crops. This road twists and turns through a river valley dotted with historic homes and old barns. Around Happy Valley, visitors can stop at the Chapel of Rest, a restored Episcopal Church that served The Patterson School in the early 1900s; and Fort Defiance, the 18th century home of Revolutionary War hero William Lenoir. Driving towards Wilkesboro, history buffs will find Whippoorwill Academy and Village where a replica log-cabin village has been reconstructed or they can find Kerr Scott Dam and Reservoir, a 3,754-arce recreational area for camping, fishing, swimming, boating, hiking, or camping.

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8. Caldwell Heritage Museum

112 Vaiden Street
Lenoir, NC 28645
Phone: (828) 758-4004
www.caldwellheritagemuseum.org
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Hours:
Tuesday – Friday: 10am – 4:30pm
Saturday: 10am – 3pm

The Caldwell County Heritage Museum displays and preserves artifacts, records and archival document relating to Caldwell County history. Items of note pertain to military contributions by Caldwell county citizens, music, and Davenport College, the last building of which now houses the museum. Free admission.

 

9. JE Broyhill Civic Center
1913 Hickory Blvd. (US 321)
Lenoir, NC 28645
Phone: (828) 726-2407
www.broyhillcenter.com
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For a community the size of Lenoir, the JE Broyhill Civic Center provides nationally acclaimed performances ranging from local bluegrass to the Boston Chamber Theatre. Throughout the year, the JE Broyhill Civic Center hosts household names with entertainment of all kinds. In addition to the performance space, meeting rooms are available for gatherings. For more information, visit www.broyhillcenter.com or call 828-726-2407.

 

10. Chapel of Rest
NC Highway 268
(nine miles north of Lenoir, adjacent to The Patterson School)
PO Box 997
Lenoir, NC 28645
Phone: (828) 758-8619 or (828) 758-0906
www.chapelofrest.org
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Hours:
Open daily during daylight hours. The Chapel is available for weddings, worship services and special events.

The Chapel is one of the most intriguing spots. Situated on a knoll, the Chapel is reminiscent of a more honest, simple life, when locals lined the pews in their Sunday best clothing. Elder generations recall their days of youth, looking up in wonder from the wooden benches, listening to voices of worship rising to the rafters, with the Gothic Revival roofline above them. Travelers who stop in for a rest along N.C. 268 will find the Chapel as peaceful today as those did who visited it many years ago. Open during daylight hours, the Chapel is a place to pause, meditate and enjoy the beautiful valley scenery.